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Masters Degrees (Dinosaurs)

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This programme is for students who are passionate about early life, dinosaurs, mass extinctions, macroevolution, fossil preservation and understanding the palaeobiology of extinct organisms. Read more
This programme is for students who are passionate about early life, dinosaurs, mass extinctions, macroevolution, fossil preservation and understanding the palaeobiology of extinct organisms. It examines quantitative aspects of the fossil record and the history of life. The research-oriented MSc bridges the biology-geology divide and will provide you with a strong background for independent research to PhD level or for a career in museums, libraries, management or the media.

This interdisciplinary programme is taught mainly in the School of Earth Sciences, along with some archaeology and biology units. You will engage in current debates in evolutionary biology, systematics and palaeobiology.

You will learn how to analyse problems quantitatively, and design experimental approaches to resolving questions in macroevolution and in the study of ancient organisms. First-hand training in research methods in palaeobiology involves laboratory techniques. In addition, you will learn a range of advanced skills throughout the programme, such as computer software use, numeracy, planning research, problem-solving and communication skills. You will learn multimedia techniques, including presentation of palaeontological data through talks, posters and formal written reports. A key aspect of the programme is preparing your projects for publication, and we provide continuing support to ensure as many projects as possible are published in leading international journals.

Programme structure

The first half of the programme consists of lectures, practical classes, tutorials and visiting speakers, designed to provide a firm foundation in the theory and methodology of the subject.

The programme comprises five core units which all students take, and a number of optional units of which students choose four. We recommend that biologists take some of the more geologically-orientated optional units, and that geologists take some of the biological optional units.

Core units
-Current Controversies in Palaeobiology and Macroevolution
-Scientific Communication
-Phylogenetic Methods in Palaeobiology
-Literature Review
-Research Methods in Palaeobiology

Optional units
-Biomechanics and Functional Morphology
-The Cambrian Explosion: the origin of animal body plans
-Early Human Origins
-Evolutionary Biology*
-Evolution of the Biosphere
-Geology for Research Palaeobiologists**
-Micropalaeontology
-Tree of Life
-Vertebrate Palaeobiology and Evolution

*Mandatory for non-biologists
**Mandatory for non-geologists

Careers

The degree is research-based, and about half the graduates go on to academic careers, usually starting with a PhD. The MSc is focused on methods, and you will learn the latest techniques in phylogenetics, biomechanics, and macroevolution training, which is highly sought after by PhD supervisors across the world.

The training in professional skills, including writing scientific papers, is also highly regarded. Some students have used the MSc as a means to go on to careers in museums, the media and education and now hold senior positions as curators and collection managers in national and regional museums. Graduates also work in making scientific documentaries, or are involved in science education at all levels.

Finally, some graduates have gone into commercial work in marketing, the oil industry and computing, where their practical skills in palaeobiology and communication have proved invaluable.

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The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Read more
The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Research involves the full breadth of the earth sciences and has benefited from major investment in new laboratories and equipment in the past few years. Important initiatives include experimental and theoretical studies of physical, chemical and biological processes of the Earth.

Please note: If you are applying for this programme, you need to select Geology as the programme choice when completing your online application form.

Research groups

The research programme at Bristol is characterised by an expanding range of exciting subject areas. Research in the School of Earth Sciences encourages interdisciplinary collaboration between its five research groups, which in turn nurtures revolutionary research.

Geochemistry
The Geochemistry group uses fundamental chemical techniques to understand natural processes on a range of temporal and spatial scales. This can be from single atoms on mineral surfaces and the environmental geochemistry of the modern Earth to the large-scale chemical structure of planets and the birth of the solar system. The group has considerable expertise in isotopic measurements, spectroscopy and first-principles calculations.

Geophysics
Geophysics uses physical properties of the solid Earth to measure structure and processes on scales from the single crystal to the entire planet. Members of the Bristol Geophysics group use gravity, seismic and satellite data to image the Earth in a variety of different contexts. These include the Earth's core, mantle and tectonic processes, volcanoes, oil and gas reservoirs and mines.

Palaeobiology
The Palaeobiology group uses the fossil record to study the history of life. Research focuses on major diversifications, mass extinctions, dating the tree of life, phylogenomics and molecular palaeobiology, morphological innovation, biomechanics, and links between evolution and development; the organisms of interest range from foraminifera to dinosaurs.

Petrology
The Petrology group uses a combination of high-pressure and high-temperature experiments, petrology, geochemistry and mineral physics to attack a wide range of problems in the solid Earth - from the core to the surface.

Volcanology
The Volcanology group at Bristol aims to understand the physical processes underlying volcanic phenomena and develop methods of hazard and risk assessment that can be applied to volcanoes worldwide.

Recent case studies and collaborators include the Met Office, Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland and INGEOMINAS in Columbia.

Research centres

The School of Earth Sciences is involved in a number of collaborative research groups on an international level. Inter-faculty research centres such as the Biogeochemistry Research Centre and the Cabot Institute involve collaboration across several departments and faculties.

Centre for Environmental and Geophysical Flows
This interdisciplinary research centre brings together expertise from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. This creates diverse research activities and interests, from traffic flow to explosive volcanic flows, meteorology to oceanography.

Biogeochemistry Research Centre
The Biogeochemistry Research Centre involves staff from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences and Chemistry. The research aims to develop our understanding of the biogeochemistry of modern-day and ancient environments and the way that it is affected by natural processes and the actions of mankind.

Bristol Isotope Group
The Bristol Isotope Group is a world-class research facility for isotope measurements directed at understanding natural processes, from the formation of the solar system, the origin of Earth - its deep structure and atmosphere, through to the evolution of that atmosphere and contemporary climate change.

Interface Analysis Centre
The Interface Analysis Centre specialises in the application of a wide range of analytical techniques and is used by the Schools of Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Physics.

The Cabot Institute
The Cabot Institute carries out fundamental and responsive research on risks and uncertainty in a changing environment. Interests include climate change, natural hazards, food and energy security, resilience and governance, and human impacts on the environment.

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